A good host sends out invitations as soon as possible to allow guests enough time to respond. Try to extend the same courtesy, and get your RSVP out as soon as you know your response. This is one area where procrastinating can quickly get you into hot water. Ideally, aim to get your RSVP in the mail within two days of receiving it.
If you are unsure whether you can attend, a tentative reply of "maybe" is better than no reply at all. Respond to your host with a brief explanation of what your conflict is and when you think you will know the official answer. Then do your best to get the final answer to your host as soon as you can.
If you have committed to attending an event, it is quite offensive to then cancel so you can accept a subsequent invitation. Although it may be disappointing to miss the second event, it is important that you stick to your word and follow through with your first RSVP.
If, for whatever reason, you cannot attend an event, do your best to adequately explain your conflict to your host. If it is a good reason, your host will surely understand and feel far better knowing you aren't just blowing him or her off.
If your host has allowed you to bring a guest, make sure how you respond on the RSVP is how you arrive the day of. If you say you won't be bringing a guest, then don't bring one. Arriving with an extra person unexpectedly could really throw a wrench into your host's plans and may cause you to not be invited in the future.
When in doubt, ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in the position of your host. Planning a party can be a stressful experience, but knowing the guest list in advance makes it seem more manageable. When you make things easier on your host, you greatly increase the chances that you'll be invited again — and that's good news for everyone involved!
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